Amnesty International has called upon the Government of the State of Chhattisgarh to drop all charges against Soni Sori and Lingaram Kodopi and has declared them prisoners of conscience.
Soni Sodi, a 35-year-old school-teacher was arrested on 4 October in Delhi. Her 25-year-old nephew, Lingaram Kodopi, was arrested on 9 September in his native Sameli village in Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh. The Chhattisgarh police have charged Soni Sodi and Lingaram Kodopi with aiding Maoist armed groups; one of the charges against them is that they had acted as couriers and transferred funds amounting to 1.5 million Indian Rupees (US$300,000) from a mining corporate firm, Essar, to the Maoists. Amnesty International believes that Soni Sodi and Lingaram Kodopi are prisoners of conscience as they have been arrested solely for criticizing human rights violations by the police and security forces in Chhattisgarh. The charges against them are false and politically motivated.
In October 2009, Lingaram Kodopi resisted an attempt by the state police to forcibly recruit him as a Special Police Officer to fight the Maoists. He was arbitrarily detained for 40 days in a police station and released only after a habeas corpus petition was filed in the courts. In April 2010, at a public hearing in Delhi he detailed violations committed by the security forces against Adivasis in Chhattisgarh, following which the state police announced that he was the prime suspect in a Maoist attack on a local Congress party leader’s residence.
Lingaram Kodopi also highlighted the killing of three Adivasis by the Central Reserve Police Force and the state police during a confrontation in three villages – Tadmetla, Timapuram and Morpalli. During the attack, two persons went missing and at least five women were sexually assaulted. Lingaram Kodopi was eventually arrested in September on false charges of aiding the Maoists.
The complete statement is available here.